Friday, July 31, 2020

Reunited Partners Gulf and McLaren Set to Make New History

Photo Credit: McLaren North America

In auto racing, an ongoing adage exists that states “money buys speed”. Recognized as the top echelon in motorsport, Formula 1 has been a spot of widespread investment for decades. Though having the largest bank account has not always guaranteed success, teams with greater finances tend to find effective avenues to apply money. It has been incredibly evident in recent years for all teams to secure a sponsor willing to spend millions in exchange for having their name on even a small part of the vehicle or team equipment is precious. Unlike in NASCAR or IndyCar, Formula 1 teams retain the same team colours throughout a season leaving sponsor brands in relatively the same position throughout an annual tour.

As an 8-time constructors’ champion and with nearly 55 years in Formula 1, McLaren has been involved with a number of companies. McLaren’s heyday in grand prix racing is connected to tobacco company Marlboro with another cigarette brand West taking over through the 1990s into the mid-2000s. With Mercedes-Benz divesting from the organization in order to support their own factory team (now the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team), McLaren has looked to the future by looking at the past adopting a blue and orange colour scheme. Coming prior to the Tobacco money, one of the earliest sponsors was the Gulf Oil brand. Starting with the 2020 British Grand Prix race weekend, McLaren and Gulf rekindles their relationship in a major agreement.

For what is described as a multi-year deal, the petroleum brand has entered into a multiple level arrangement positioned with the McLaren Group. The most visible component of the partnership is found on the Renault-powered McLaren MCL35 race cars driven by Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lando Norris. Through the rest of the 2020 Formula 1 season, the Gulf Oil International's branding will now be involved with McLaren on track with logos placed on the engine covers and the wing mirrors. The British Grand Prix will be the first time since 1973 that the pairing will be seen together in a Formula 1 race. Gulf’s branding most recently appeared in mid-1990s on the McLaren F1 GTR that competed in sports car racing that included the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Beyond on-track activities in Formula, Gulf and McLaren will be partnered with their road cars. Starting in 2021, Gulf products will be promoted as the preferred lubricant by McLaren Automotive. Customers of vehicles including the McLaren GT and the McLaren 765LT will find Gulf brand lubricants inside their new supercar purchases. “Every supercar will have Gulf fuel and lubricants when it leaves the McLaren Production Centre and I know our customers will be thrilled to be able to work with our in-house bespoke team on the option of being one of the few to be able to personalize their McLaren supercar in the iconic Gulf livery.” said Chief Executive Officer of McLaren Automotive Mike Flewitt. Available through the McLaren Special Operations, a limited number of McLaren customers can acquire a supercar featuring a hand-painted Gulf colour scheme resembling the McLaren F1 GTR car. The Gulf name will also be affiliated with McLaren’s customer events.
A rebirth of an old partnership, both McLaren and Gulf Oil have undergone major changes since 1973. The original deal with the oil company came while the motorsport car builder’s founder Bruce McLaren was still alive. After McLaren’s passing, the Formula 1 team was managed by American Teddy Mayer through the 1970s. After being under Ron Dennis’ control through the early 1980s to the 2010s, the McLaren organization now operates through an ownership group headed by the Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company. Gulf merged Standard Oil of California (now called Chevron Corporation) in 1984 but the familiar name has continued to be found across the world. Gulf Oil International is owned by the Hinduja Group and currently operates the brand outside of the United States. Despite the journey by both companies, their appearance together again looks to recount good old times.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Hamilton Wins Hungarian Grand Prix While Verstappen and Bottas Staged Recoveries

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A

The third race of the 2020 Formula 1 season, the Hungarian Grand Prix at the 4.381-kliometer Hungaroring circuit was the second location that the 20-car open wheel racing festival visited on the reworked schedule due to the global coronovirus pandemic. The low speed, tight race course was added to the Formula 1 schedule in 1986 and has been known to provide a playing field favourable for smaller teams to compete closely with bigger, better-funded organizations. 

Despite this history at the Hungaroring, Mercedes AMG prevailed in Saturday qualifying with Lewis Hamilton taking pole ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas. The Mercedes AMG machines were the only two cars in the 1-minute, 13-second lap time bracket in Q3 with Hamilton almost a second faster than the third-place Racing Point machine of Lance Stroll. With Racing Point vehicles securing the second row, the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc captured the third row for the start of the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix. 

Ahead of Sunday’s race, rain dampened the Hungarian track potentially complicating team plans for the 70-lap race. Almost every team on the grid opted for intermediate Pirelli tires expecting slick conditions for the opening laps of the Hungarian Grand Prix. Even before the grand prix even started, there was some major drama for Red Bull driver Max Verstappen when he slid on turn 12 of the wet Hungaroring track for a pre-race warm-up lap. Making light contact with the track barrier at low speed, Verstappen’s Honda-powered Red Bull car suffered left-front suspension and front wing damage. With luck and skill of the Red Bull racing team’s mechanics, the car was not only repaired but help retain their driver’s seventh place grid spot.

As the light turned off to start the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton sailed to an early lead. Valtteri Bottas mistimed his acceleration at his starting grid spot based on a mistake the Finnish driver claims as reacting to a dash light. Once Bottas had exited turn 1, the second Mercedes AMG car had dropped to sixth place. Lance Stroll’s Racing Point was the leading benefactor of the Bottas’ disastrous start able to claim the second spot in the early stage of the Hungarian Grand Prix. 

Racing on a dampened track with no rain, drivers of the Hungarian Grand Prix promptly pitted to remove their intermediate tires in favour of dry weather slicks. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas came to the attention of their teams on the second lap while Lewis Hamilton, Lance Stroll, Alexander Albon, Sebastian Vettel and several others pitted on the following lap. The Haas F1 Team elected to change the intermediate tires on the cars driven by Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean to medium slick tires on the formation lap. The plan allowed the duo to gain impressive track position among the lead pack for a brief period. The Haas-Ferrari race cars would complete the race on a single-stop strategy but fell out of podium contention quickly.

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A

The 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix was one to forget for rookie Canadian Nicholas Latifi and his Williams race team. A lap 3 pit stop ended Latifi being released alongside the McLaren of Carlos Sainz Jr. resulting in contact. In attention to receiving a five-second penalty for the unsafe release, the Williams race car suffered a left-rear tire puncture on the following lap requiring an extra pit stop. Latifi would also spin off track on lap 43 though he was able to continue to the finish of the event 5 laps down in 19th place.

From pole position, Lewis Hamilton claimed his second win of the season with Mercedes AMG and his 86th career victory. Despite making a late race stop for soft compound tires on lap 66, Hamilton’s fantastic drive allowed him to finish 8.7 seconds ahead of the Red Bull Racing car of Max Verstappen.

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG/LAT Images

Hamilton was joined on the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix’s race podium by two drivers that overcame early difficulties. From his seventh place starting position Max Verstappen drove to the runner-up spot in his recently repaired race car. Verstappen graciously dedicating the podium finish. Recovering from a poor start, Valtteri Bottas was able to take the checkered flag in third place. 

The Racing Point race team enjoyed a positive outcome on a day where both Mercedes-Benz powered cars qualified in the second row. Canada’s Lance Stroll finished comfortably in fourth place while Sergio Perez collected a seventh place finish. Perez was hindered by being behind Valtteri Bottas at the start of the grand prix causing him to fall from his fourth place grid position on the opening lap contributing to the separation between him and his teammate.

Photo Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A

Alexander Albon finished the Hungarian Grand Prix in fifth place in the Red Bull Honda one position ahead of former Red Bull driver and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel driving for Ferrari. Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo crossed the finish line in eighth while Carlos Sainz Jr. is officially classified in the ninth place spot. The McLaren driver was promoted due to the Haas F1 Team cars being penalized their formation lap pit stops in post-race causing Kevin Magnussen to scored tenth in the final point-paying position. 

This next Formula 1 race is the British Grand Prix set for August 2nd at Silverstone. 

2020 Formula 1 Hungarian Grand Prix